On the eve of the Ethiopian Orthodox feast day of Timkat, a celebration of the baptism of Baby Jesus and associated with Epiphany, processions of elaborately-dressed clergymen, church mothers, government officials, musicians, scholars, parishioners, and other dignitaries marching through the streets of the capital city, Addis Ababa. Baroque representations of the Ark of the Covenant, the box said to hold the biblical Ten Commandments, are carried from each of the churches in the city to the main baptismal font, where hundreds of thousands of Christians sing and pray through the night.
Epiphany normally takes place 13 days after Christmas. In Ethiopia, where Christianity has been practiced in Ethiopia since 333 AD, the church follows the Julian calendar and celebrates its holidays within a few weeks of comparable celebrations in the rest of the Christian world. This year, Timkat festivities were held on January 19th all around Ethiopia.
That morning in Addis, after an overnight vigil, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church blessed the waters of the font and led a reenactment of the baptism of Jesus. The excited, pious crowd of men, women, and children, mostly dressed in traditional Ethiopian linens, then renewed their own baptismal vows underneath holy water sprayed through water hoses into the dry air of the festival area.
An impactful and powerful expression of faith, Timkat served as an incredible introduction to one of the world’s oldest Christian societies.
Have you ever been to a religious festival?